Thursday, 15 December 2016

The season for coughs and colds

For the last couple of weeks with the change in weather, training has slacked due to constant coughs, colds and tummy bugs throughout the house. With my youngest teething (again), sleep hasn't been great for any of us. As we know sleep is so important for our well being and health, its all goes hand in hand. So I decided to do a rota at home for my partner and myself to rotate early mornings etc. (Not sure its gone down too well) but a mothers health is also equally important when working and bringing up children.

With a niggling dry cough, sneezing and blowing my nose, there has been more added pressure down on my pelvic floor. I have noticed a heavy feeling in my pelvic region, which has reminded me to revisit my optimal core breath. With all the coughs and sneezes you greatly increase the Intra Abdominal Pressure within the core region.

I always focus on the core breath when I am exercising and lifting, but it is so easily to forget with the subconscious movements like coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately with pregnancies and babies there is definitely more due care and attention needed to our bodies, these things were probably never really mentioned to us, after having babies. Controlling the abdominal pressure is a life long habit after having children, it is hard to remind yourself but very simple to learn. The more it is practised the more natural the neurological patterns become.
Below is an image of the four walls of the core, that need to work in synergy with one another.

For example sneezing causes a very violent contraction of the diaphragm and many muscles that support the neck and back. This is the rapid rise in 'intra abdominal pressure' exerting on an outward and downward force putting a lot pressure on the abdominal wall and also weakens the pelvic floor muscle. This is why it is so important strengthening and re-training the pelvic floor to work in synergy with the rest of the core.

 Examples of actions that can increase the force of intra-abdominal pressure;

*Heavy lifting (lifting children)
*Jumping/ high impact
*Blowing hard nose/mouth
*Exercising including abdominal crunches

Unfortunately most of these above are part of everyday life. If there is already a weakness within the core and the pressure is poorly controlled, ongoing problems could occur. The abdominal pressure builds and is forced down towards the pelvic floor, which may be not strong/ functional enough to do its job and can lead to an array of pelvic floor dysfunctions such as;

*Stress Urinary/ Incontinence
*Pelvic Organ Prolapse
*Pelvic Pain
*Reduced Sexual Pleasure
*Hernias/ Prolapse           (if you do feel you have any of these symptoms it is advised to speak to a                                                health  professional)

But we can prevent or reduce the risk of these from happening, if we look after our bodies by building stronger cores, correcting our alignment/ postures. Core instability is increased if it is not working in synergy which means the diaphragm, lower back, pelvic floor and the abdominal wall are not working together.

Usually I always integrate my core synergy breath into my workouts whether its weights, cardio or functional training. I have noticed a more heavy feeling on my pelvic floor when I do high knees or star jumps (which is unusual),  this is because my core has not been working in synergy. So I need to focus again working with the breath within movement to protect myself. This can be a warning sign your pelvic floor is under pressure but can be corrected. The pelvic floor needs strengthening just like any other part of the body and probably more so. It is a part of a woman's body that needs the life long commitment. Again changes occur when you also hit menopause, so start now.

"If it doesn't feel right, get it checked out"

When I have clients come to me with either pelvic floor dysfunctions or diastasis he first thing we look at is the breath, this is a buiding block for mothers optimum recovery and forever more. We also use this as a big emphasis in my 'Postnatal core restore' class, I coach  Intrinsic Core  Synergy and the purpose of the breath into all the movements. The breath protects the body when incorporated into functional movement patterns and core strengthening work. With the commitment and practise, you can change the neurological patterns and create a subconscious movement that can protect you from many consequential problems if dismissed.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Postpartum Planks

Planks are probably one of the best core exercises there is and also strengthen your glutes, back, shoulders and arms meaning it can firm you all over. The plank can come in so many different variations, equally all effective and focusing on different elements of the core.

Many new mums ask me when it is safe to return to doing full plank? It is advised not to do full planks after having a baby, but postpartum recovery will vary from mother to mother. Fours months maybe ok for one mum, whilst nine months could still be too soon for another. Aspects that need to be taken into consideration are:

  • Type of childbirth
  • Prenatal fitness level
  • Abdominal conditioning (diastasis Recti)
  • Incontinence and other pelvic floor weaknesses
  • Postpartum pain
  • Prolapse issues

There are lots of plank variations you can do for some of the points above, so not all is ruled out. Also there are plank progressions for mums who are ready to slowly gain the strength to gradually perform a full plank.

If you answer yes to any of the following, you should avoid planks at present and seek professional advice on an exercise programme right for you.

  • Have you had any back or hip pain?
  • Do you leak?
  • Do you have diastasis recti?
  • Do you see conning in your belly?
If you answer yes to all or most of these, then your plank journey to inner core strength may begin.
  • Has your Diastasis closed/ healed?
  • Has your postpartum posture improved?
  • Is your core system working as it should? Can you connect your deep core muscles?
  • Have you been following a post birth recovery program?
When you are physically ready to start  incorporating planks into your routine, see the image of plank progressions below. Each progression should be done for approx 2 weeks 3-4 times for 30 secs ( build time up to 1 min) and then move onto the next phase. (Please note you can initially do planks standing against the wall vertically for a gentle start)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Teething Troubles

A wee tip from my sister a mother of 4 ( a pro at this parenting stuff)...use Anbesol liquid for teething. Available at most pharmacies for approx £4.99.
Brilliant stuff and much less messy than chasing Bonjela around your knuckles.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Breast-feeding and Exercise

Each mother may vary in the responses with exercising in the breast-feeding period. Health and fitness levels prior and during pregnancy can effect how your body reacts in the post-partum period. Lower intensity exercise helps aid the postpartum healing process mentally and physically. It is fantastic  for improving bone density, weight management and mental health of mother.

Research shows that moderate exercise doesn't affect the milk supply, milk composition, or baby's growth. Lactic acid levels have been shown to increase somewhat when a mother exercises to maximum intensity but there are no known harmful effects to the baby. If baby does find the taste less appealing then leaving it 30 mins to 1 hour after exercise should be sufficient for acid levels to reduce back to normal. . Breast-feeding before exercise will satisfy baby whilst mother is away and empty the breasts make exercise more comfortable. Some babies may object to being breast fed after mum has been exercising due to sweating leaving the taste of salt on the skin. Ensure you drink plenty of water to keep hydration levels up before and after exercise.

Relaxin hormone may still be present throughout the duration of breast feeding, ligaments may not be as strong leading to instability of the joints. When exercising keep plyometric work low impact and avoid too much high impact exercise. For example exercises high impact exercises can be when both feet leave the ground at the same time such as skipping, running, jumping jacks, squat jumps and split squat jumps.

Prone lying exercises will be uncomfortable for a breast-feeding mother. Also vigorous/ repetitive arm work including lifting weights which may stimulate breast-milk or cause plugged ducts. Ensure a good supportive sports bra is worn to protect overstretching during exercise.

Our bodies and metabolism may change with pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Go slow and listen to your body and ease into a healthy program.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pre and Post Pregnancy Hair

Throughout pregnancy most of us are blessed with thicker hair that has volume and shine. You may have noticed that your hair may grow quicker and  falls out less too. The increased blood circulation and faster metabolism bring more nutrients to your hair.  Sometimes the texture may also change from straight to curly or vice-versa. Pregnancy hormones are the reason for all of this, especially  the higher levels of oestrogen which extends the hair growth cycle. From about 3-6 months postpartum your hair growth begins to return to normal speed.

From delivery day onwards oestrogen levels begin to drop back to normal, the hairs grown through pregnancy stop and remain dormant for a few months . Slowly a mother then begins to lose that extra hair, which can take a few months. Many mothers associate it with tiredness or stress but it is totally normal. For me I didn’t really notice it till about the 4 month mark, when areas of regrowth started to come through. Hair loss can vary from mother to mother, for some people it is gradual while others may lose handfuls. I am 8 months postpartum and the picture shows my current hair situation….which is far better than my first pregnancy. As you can see ponytails are not really an option right now.

This time round I wanted to be more prepared for the condition my hair would be in following pregnancy. So I decided to start taking a supplement as soon as I gave birth. This certainly didn’t  stop the hair falling but definitely kept my hair in good condition maintaining some of the thickness. I only noticed my  hair loss around my temples at around 4 months when it began to grow back through.

With my first child I never knew about hair loss, it is something you are not really told about. I remember loosing  clumps in the shower and at about 2 months postpartum my hair felt thin and flat and I couldn’t do anything with it. This is why I decided to be more prepared by purchasing a supplement (which I am still using today. They are a variety on the market but I chose a hair, skin and nail from Costco ,Nature’s Bounty High Strength Hair, Skin and Nail Food Supplement @ £14.89 for 250. It states you can take up to three a day but I usually stick to 1 or 2. They contain Vitamin A & c, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Calcium.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Tips On Buying The Perfect Pair Of Pregnancy shoes

There are 3 things I believe you need to consider when deciding on a good shoe to wear during your pregnancy.

1. Easy to put on

Your feet slowly disappear and reaching over your growing belly to put on shoes will become almost impossible.
Choose a shoe that you can easily put on without the need to bend down. Slip on shoes without laces are particularly suited for pregnant women. I had a lovely pair of gladiator sandals with buckles at the sides. Even sitting down and trying to swing my leg round to fasten the buckle was impossible

2. Supportive

From getting tendinitis with  one pregnancy and bad knees with the other I strongly recommend footwear with good support. With added baby weight, the joints are going to be under more stress than usual, especially in the later stages of pregnancy
By choosing a shoe with ankle and arch supports you can reduce joint pains associated with walking if not eliminate them all together.

3. A little extra room.

Be prepared for a little/ or a lot of swelling especially in the summer. You are going to want a little bit of extra room to compensate for the swelling. Try not to make the purchase too early in the pregnancy. My second pregnancy gave me more swelling across the top of my foot and at the top of my sock line. When i took my trainers off at the end of the day, I would have a bulbous ankle.
 Sorry to say swelling WILL occur to some extent
Jumping up half a size (or even a FULL size) larger than what you currently wear will allow you to remain comfortable when the swelling suddenly strikes. Until the swelling comes you can always wear an extra pair of socks to fill in the extra room.
An added bonus to comfortable shoes is that they will allow you to remain standing for longer periods of time before your feet begin to fatigue.

Wearing The Correct Footwear

If your are exercising or have got to a point in your pregnancy where comfortable footwear is essential. I advise wearing a good pair of comfortable trainers.

In my first pregnancy it was summer and I ended up wearing ballet pumps, which led to me getting tendinitis in one of my feet. They offered me no stability and support to my feet as my bump got bigger.

In my second pregnancy I opted for a nice fashionable pair of Nike free runners. A style you could where with fashion clothing in the daytime. I loved these so much I ended up wearing in the gym for my workouts too. Unfortunately these didn't offer me the correct support while training, which has now caused ongoing discomfort in my knees.

I would advice getting your gate done, this is when a specialist looks at you running and walking. The specialist analyses your ankle stability and arch positioning and can advice the perfect type trainer for you. Don't opt for fashion when it comes to using trainers for exercise. You can get your gate analysis done at various running and sports stores and there is no obligation to buy.

I went to RUN 4 IT IN Glasgow

The conclusion is that I am neutral on my right foot but cave in on my left foot, so my arches are not supporting my feet hence the added pressure on my knees. My current Nikes offer my no support at all. I have been told I need a stability 3 shoe if I am purchasing running shoes. I was offered two style of trainers to try on Brookes Ravenna £114 and Asics 1000-4 £99. I tried both on and tested them out on the treadmill, obviously the more expensive pair were more comfortable!
Being on maternity doesn't give me a disposable income to buy a pair of trainers at £100,

I choose the Brookes Ravenna I managed to get them for £60. They felt amazing on and very light and springy. I cannot wait to get out on a run in them.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

1st Trimester fitness

There are many websites and articles on exercise throughout pregnancy, which I did look over for personal information and gain more knowledge. But I can only speak through my experiences through both pregnancies and how I was previously active before, which does make a different how you can train.
For me in the first trimester the biggest challenge was fighting off fatigue in my first pregnancy and headaches and morning sickness in my second. There would be days or even weeks I couldn't face the gym, but it did pass. Incorporate a walk within your daily routine would substitute the days

*The occasions I did manage to exercise I felt a million times better and it did  help increase my energy levels and minimize many pregnancy discomforts.

*A tip I discovered to ease the nauseous I ate a small snack within the hour before I started any form of exercise.

My main focus was to keep my strength, stability and overall fitness. Continue with what you had been previously doing and amend where necessary. 

If you are at a gym or looking for the support of a personal trainer, I would advise you seek a professional who has pre and post natal experience.

Most important thing to remember when your exercising for two, is especially important to warm up. When working out, going from zero to 100 is never a good idea. It's especially not a good idea when you're pregnant. "The ability for your vascular system to react quickly is not the same as it normally is," says Geralyn Coopersmith, Director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. Therefore, you need to give your body at least 10-15 minutes to warm up before performing any exercise. If you are still comfortable running then a gentle jog is great. I preferred the cross trainer as I found running uncomfortable. Mobility exercise are a great way of warming the body up too.

Plan a simple workout: If you are a non-exerciser start with brisk walking or take up a prenatal yoga class under supervision of a certified instructor. If you have previously been active, continue with adaptations. Seek professional advice
Be regular with workouts: Always make it a point to spend at least 30 minutes working out during the initial months, do something you feel comfortable doing. Intensity can be gradually built up. You can still challenge yourself with exercise.
Warm-up: Always warm-up before you start to exercise, either walk on treadmill at a slow pace if you are doing weights at gym or go for a stroll in the park to prepare your body for exercise. Remember to wind down and stretch too post exercise.

In another Blog I will talk about my training schedule and the exercise that are do's and donts.

Monday, 28 March 2016

My History

I thought it would be a good time to talk about what I am all about and my experience and vision for the future.

I am a mother of 2 beautiful girls a 4 year old and 7 month old.

I have always been very active since a child. I competed in swimming for county from a very young age, so became exposed to strength and condition from the age of 12. Athletics at school brought out my natural talent for long distance running. I began competing in County level for cross country and track athletics. This grew into competing in biathlons,  where I came 3rd in the British Schools.

As I grew out of my teens I found a passion for the gym which I've continued to this day. In my early twenties, I then began running again while living in London and competed in a few road races. I also discovered Ashtanga yoga, which I did twice a week.

When I moved up to Scotland I continued long distance running and obtained some fantastic times in my 10km and half marathon distance.
I turned 30 and was physically looking for a new challenge and started kick boxing. My fitness excelled and my body shape changed and really toned up.
I began competing and did really well in the short time I was in this sport. I achieved Scottish Champion 2 years in a row and silver in the English championships. This then opened eyes to try boxing and thai boxing. This is where I met my partner. I also found all these sports very sociable and found life long friends while training.

I was completing my fitness instructor course when I fell pregnant. I was probably at the peak of my fitness and I continued to train until 38 weeks pregnant. Returned to post pregnancy weight by 6 months postpartum. For my second baby I also trained but very differently and got back to post baby weight within 6 months again. This is where my passion began ...

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

S..P.D Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

So I have been experiencing twinges in my front pelvis, predominantly when I'm walking and using the stairs. I also notice swelling on one side of my pubic area. Exercising wasn't causing me any bother to my pelvis but I am not sure if this is because my joints and body are more warm. Luckily I recently started a static desk job because the role I was previously doing involved being active all day. So  I decided to mention it to my midwife on a routine visit and she referred me to the hospital physio. I was lucky and managed to get an appointment within a week.

So after the initial consultation with the physiotherapist, it was concluded that I had unfortunately got SPD. Yes, it is as painful as the name sounds Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction.This apparently more common in second pregnancies and can effect 1 in 5 pregnancies.

SPD is also known as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain PPGP, which is a variety of  uncomfortable symptoms caused by misalignment or stiffness in the pelvic area. This leads to instability in the pelvic joint allowing it to move in ways it was never intended to move. The condition is not harmful to the baby but painful for the mother SPD is not only painful, but it also puts a damper on workouts during and after pregnancy.

Symptoms can include
* Pain over the pubic bone at the front in the centre
* Pain across one or both sides of your lower back
* Pain in the perineum

So I had the pain across the front and obvious swelling on one side, the physiotherapist said my pelvis had actually dropped about 2 inches on one side. This was quite frightening to hear but actually easy to fix. The physiotherapist positioned me where my leg was over her shoulder and I had to push against her while she pushed my pelvis. So after about 30 seconds the pelvis had been corrected and back in line. It was now down to me to maintain this and was given a beautiful NHS support band to wear. The band was very tight so only could realistically wear it when I was walking and standing. It did help taking the weight off my pelvis and continued using this while walking.

The Association for Chartered Physiotherapists in Women’s Health (ACPWH) also offers this advice:

  • Be as active as possible within your pain limits, and avoid activities that make the pain worse.
  • Rest when you can.
  • Get help with household chores from your partner, family and friends.
  • Wear flat, supportive shoes.
  • Sit down to get dressed – for example, don’t stand on one leg when putting on jeans.
  • Keep your knees together when getting in and out of the car – a plastic bag on the seat can help you swivel.
  • Sleep in a comfortable position – for example, on your side with a pillow between your legs.
  • Try different ways of turning over in bed – for example, turning over with your knees together and squeezing your buttocks.
  • Take the stairs one at a time, or go upstairs backwards or on your bottom.
  • If you’re using crutches, have a small backpack to carry things in.
  • If you want to have sex, consider different positions, such as kneeling on all fours.

So after resting for a few days and getting used to the rather large NHS pelvic support band I headed back to the gym. I talked everything through with the personal trainer and had told him that I did have the all clear to exercise. The conditions were, don't do anything that hurts or uncomfortable, no plyometric or single sided exercises. Split squats, lunges, step ups, pistol squats and lateral jumps would leave me in agony.
 So the focuses for us to avoid when rewriting a revised program were exercises that involved
  • standing on one leg
  • bending and twisting to lift, or carrying a baby on one hip
  • crossing your legs
  • sitting on the floor, or sitting twisted
  • sitting or standing for long periods
  • lifting heavy weights
  • pushing heavy objects
  • carrying anything in only one hand

  • The first adaptation was to isolate the pelvis, previously I was using stability ball while lifting weight and cable machines. This was so that my core was engaged and I could work on pelvic tilt in between sets (recommended by the physio). Alternatively now I am using a fixed weights bench.

    I am avoiding
    • Lunges
    • Lateral twists
    • Cross trainer
    • Single leg deadlifts
    • Kettlebell swings
    • Single arm weights
    • Supermans
    I still want to achieve an all over body work and still want birth preparation to be a focus. To work my legs I am using the seated leg press as my weight load is off my legs and my pelvis is supported. I have been using the seated cable machines to focus on shoulders, core, upper back and arms. Using dumbbells (both hands) while seated on a weight bench enabled me to isolate the delts and lats. I also did an elevated plank on the weight bench to ensure I was maintaining a tight transverse muscle that will help support the baby weight. I did not wear the NHS support band while training, it as too restricting so I wore my own support to keep the baby weight off my pelvis.

    At this point in my pregnancy I decided to stop the functional training class I had been attending up to now. Since falling pregnant I had been coming at least once a week and working on my own adaptations within each circuit. I have now decided to focus on birth and post birth preparation in the gym.

    So the initial troublesome pain began to fade away and I was no longer taking painkillers and I gradually introduced my original programme back into my training.


    Thursday, 25 February 2016

    2nd Trimester- Maternity Support Band

    Again this was another repeat purchase from my first pregnancy, I actually gave my first one to a friend who was pregnant and was still working out. So I purchased another one from the same supplier on ebay.
    The make is Carriwell and is 92% and 8% elastane.

    The time came in my function training class that a wee star jump or light job in a warm up began to feel a little heavy (not painful)
    This prompted me to buy another support band, I chose black as most of my gym kit was dark. It is a ribbed/ structured lycra band with no seams, so no irritation on that sensitive bump. It actually flatters your shape by sitting under your sports bra and sitting just below the waistband. There are many other support bands in the market but are not really catered for sport. The ones you usually find and heavy wrap around Velcro belts which are not comfortable if your exercising.

    The make is Carriwell and is 92% and 8% elastane.